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SAMPLE ARTICLE FROM
THE AVICULTURAL JOURNAL


Budgerigars as a Colony of Domestic Kept Birds

by Eric Peake (The Avicultural Journal, 1999, Vol. 22, #2)

BUDGERIGARS are gregarious, promiscuous birds that colonise to breed. Due to the vast numbers of breeding strains, developed throughout the world in captivity, we have established some excellent specimens with size and quality. Naturalists and scientists can question whether size and quality are ideal. But, in the world of exhibition budgerigars, size and development have been prime factors for consideration.

In 1789, the first description of the budgerigar became known, then in 1840, the first two birds were brought to the UK, in 1848, the first known habits of the budgie were described. So you see, for 150 years or so, we have been keeping the birds in our part of the world. But this is only a fleeting second compared to the universal time sphere. Therefore, to escape from the basic breeding pattern of the bird is still well beyond our reach.

You often hear fanciers say, "they are well established in this part of the world." I think budgerigars are established as a colony of domestic kept birds, but a long way from the natural instincts of their forefathers. It is interesting to know that in the wild, budgies can go for two years without breeding. We get into fits of despair if our birds go one season without producing, strange, isn't it?

Family groups

Because budgies are a group type of bird, family and relations are usually in a yearly unit. In the wild the birds form a colony of family groups, the young of that season form a creche from which pairs are selected for future breeding.

In captivity, we continually split the groups, thus breaking the 'pecking order' of superiority in adult birds. This surely cannot do the group much good for selective breeding. The fancier is often told, form a stud of related birds, line breed and in-breed. This can only be done if relationships can bond the unit together. The selection of pairs is important to create your future birds. It is only by allowing the colony to keep together all the 'good birds' that we start to achieve our goal in co-operation with nature.

It is always advisable to have a set group of colonies, such as Grey, Grey Green, Light Green and Skyblue, in Normal and Opaline. Many fanciers choose to breed so many varieties that success in developing a certain colour, will be hindered by cross-genetic matings. Do not breed too many varieties. If you like the specialist groups, such as Pieds, Clearwings, Spangles etc., then form a pattern of these colours in your stock.

Characteristics

Too many fanciers do not look at the family characteristics of the birds. After all, the body, whether large or small, differs very little in basic character structure. The head is the one part that makes the bird an individual, so the most important 'fixed' feature or character is the head.

To develop a strain of birds, we must fix the desired quality in our birds. Only by line breeding and in breeding can we guarantee the qualities will be handed down from generation to generation. Do not breed with too many out-crosses. They have a lot of hidden faults, which will not be seen. It can take years to eliminate breeding faults. Not only do we have to remove the fault, but fail to see other faults coming in our birds' make-up.

The dream and desire of every budgie fancier is to breed a stormer. These do not develop from chance matings, or out-crosses. To produce one, we have to plan our breeding team to fix good factors in our birds. Visual qualities are very important if you want to win on the show bench. To make the judge put your bird first, it must have the head qualities, so important for a second look by the adjudicator. Width of skull is difficult to breed in, unless you can purchase birds that possess it already. Depth of mask is very crucial when breeding exhibition birds. We have to extend the mask but not too low in comparison to the overall balance of the birds. Shallow masks are a bad feature, even if the bird has good spots.

Spots play such an important part in the bird's appearance. They need to be well spaced, round, and as large as the mask will allow for balance. Small spots are a bad fault when viewing an exhibition bird. The distance from the eye to the back of the head is difficult to breed in, unless you can obtain a bird with this desirable feature. Lack of back skull does more harm to a good bird than any other feature.

Theory of inheritance

When two birds are paired up, due to Mendel's theory of inheritance, a big bird paired to a small bird does not produce a medium sized bird. Quite the contrary, the larger bird does not fix his qualities upon the babies, it is usually the smaller one who fixes poorer features on the youngsters. So, the background of both the pairs is essential. The size of both birds, will, if large, produce some excellent percentage of young, but if not a larger proportion of smaller babies will be obtained.

It should be noted that females usually inherit characteristics from their fathers, and males from their mothers. It is good policy to try and pair down, that is, from a good male through his female offspring, which is known as line breeding. Niece to uncle is another good pairing, as is nephew to aunt.

To establish a good stud of birds, which look like each other, the fancier needs to have a relation on both sides of his pairs that have a link to other pairs in his stock. The method of infiltration breeding is highly recommended. It will fix a characteristic in both sides of the lines. If you use common sense in selection, then you just need a little good luck.

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